Sinus and Headache

One seemingly unshakable myth is that severe sinus disease is among the common causes of headache. Many millions of dollars are allocated each year in the U.S. on sinus treatments, and many headache patients are convinced that those treatments will cure or at least relieve their pain. As commercials for sinus pills are often found in the media and due to the fact that sinus symptoms may be comparable to headache symptoms, it isn’t surprising that people with undiagnosed migraine will turn to sinus drugs.

Many headache patients even undergo sinus scans or X-rays as part of their medical evaluation. Occasionally we see people who seek surgical procedures and hope that such treatment may relieve their migraine, seldom does it will help. There are two types of sinusitis: acute and chronic. Sinus of acute variety is just an ordinary acute illness, often with symptoms of fever and some tenderness over sinus, usually with yellow and thick drainage coming out from the nose. Sinus pain is generally experienced as deep ache. Leaning your body forward may increases the pain, and this is particularly true of headache. Your sinus may feel blocked, however sinus congestion can happen if you have migraine and, especially, with cluster headache. In cluster headache and migraine, the sensation of stuffed sinus is just a part of the headache, it’s not the cause. It is important to know that people can’t walk around for months while having acute sinusitis before seeking immediate medical attention. As always acute disorder can make you feel very sick. If you indeed suffer acute sinusitis, you shouldn’t simply take nonprescription “sinus medication”; at a minimum, you should seek medical attention, because it is likely that you need antibiotics.

However, chronic sinusitis is very different. Although quite common, it is somewhat unlikely that chronic sinusitis can cause a bad case of headache and you may feel fine for days and weeks and suddenly become really sick for hours and quickly recover.

If you visit a large drugstore, you will find many products that purportedly are effective for “sinus headaches,” while television and radio are letting loose persistent drumbeats of ads recounting their virtues. Those pills are usually consisted of simple decongestants and analgesics. The decongestant component may influence the blood vessels dilation and the analgesic component can effectively treat many types of pain (for example migraine headache). Your headache may feel better, and it won’t be surprising that you will be reinforced in your belief about the effectiveness of these drugs. “Sinus headache” is mostly an American phenomenon, and people outside of this country unlikely consider it as a valid diagnosis. This could be a classic example where a largely factitious disorder is produced by a popular awash in media-assisted advertising.

1 comment

  1. Sue Reply
    June 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I used to get both sinus and migraine headaches for many years. I know the difference. With migraine I used to throw up and will be cured with Excedrin or any other Ibuprofen. With sinus headaches these medication do not help and I have to take a sinus antihistamine plus the painkiller for the headaches to go away. Also I wake up with stuffy nose and headaches with my sinus problems. Migraines stopped after my menopause.

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